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A person in graduation regalia is sitting in a white room. Behind them is a black tapestry with gold embossing covering the door, a mirror, and a desk with two plants and a few small boxes resting atop it. A small, translucent black, box in the corner of the screen with white text reads: Francis Ojok. Speaking passionately, Ojok gesticulates with their hands throughout their speech to provide emphasis.
To be here today, I know it has not been an easy journey for most, if not all of my cohorts. Each and everyone graduating today have come a long way, and from all walks of life. We come together carrying the different weight of struggle. Some of us are victims of wars and conflict. Others come from countries destroyed by corruptions and gross human rights abuses. Some lost their livelihood because of climate change and much more. But one thing that tie us all together is that this struggles inspire us to envision and spend our lives working towards a better world. I am so proud and lucky to share space and learn from each and everyone of you.
My name is Francis Ojok. I am from Uganda and I'm humbled to be graduating with a master's degree in conflict resolution and coexistence. They say, a journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step. And so it was my journey to the Heller School. My journey began under a mango tree from an internally displaced school, in Northern Uganda's district of Gulu. When I arrived at Heller, learning first and on a field trip to Plymouth Plantation about the relationship and history between the Wampanoag Native American tribes and British colonies. I knew, there and then that this was going to be a lifetime experience that will change my views forever.
There is no success without struggle as shown by my time at the Heller School. And to make lasting change it requires hard work every day. And when work got to be too much, I was able to find leisure time with my classmates. Whenever I felt lonely from being thousands of miles away from home, I found friendship and comfort within the diverse student community at the Heller School. Whenever I fell down, I was lifted by the wonderful community at the Heller School. The Heller School became my home. I laughed and I even forgot that I was a continent away from home. Not even COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the ongoing struggle for racial equity and justice amidst brutally human right abuses by law enforcement in countries around the globe, could stop us from being there for one another, cheering each other on and continuing to seek learning to advance social justice.
Today, as we walk out of the Heller School door we are the face of social justice. May we have thus the planted seed of seeking deeper understanding before prescribing the solution to the world's problems. May we step forward as agent of change and peacemakers in our own community. And may we step back as learners and listeners creating a space for under represented group of people to take part in and be the face of their community peace building process. May we have thus seed of teamwork and collaboration. For we Brandesians understand more than anyone else that it is only through team work that we can collectively achieve world space. Above all, may we have thus the seed of love, humility and respect planted in us, while at Heller School. In whatever we do, may we show empathy, may we treat each and everyone with dignity and respect. May our action be a reflection of the Heller School's mission to build a social inclusive society. May we share the Heller school vision of a world where diversity is embraced for its positive potential. And may we apply in our daily lives, the core value of Heller School, which is respect for all persons.
Congratulations to all of today's graduates, may your lights shine brightly from Africa to Antarctica, from Asia to Australia, from Europe to North America and to South America.